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Gibson writes: "The struggle in Iceland is ongoing, but the nation's people have achieved monumental results in a relatively short amount of time due to the nature of their movement building."

Protests in Reykjavik against the government in 2009. (photo: Daniel Burgui Iguzkiza/Flickr)
Protests in Reykjavik against the government in 2009. (photo: Daniel Burgui Iguzkiza/Flickr)

Five Ways the US Can Have an Icelandic Revolution

By Carl Gibson, Reader Supported News

05 June 13


e have to nationalize the banks. We have to get rid of the government. We need to have access to the internet seen as a human right. We need to have a new Constitution," said Birgitta Jonsdottir, founder of the Icelandic Pirate Party. Jonsdottir, a lifelong political activist and recently re-elected member of the Icelandic parliament was describing the four central demands of the new political revolution sweeping Iceland since the financial collapse. "We can create power and be the government and be the media. If Iceland can do it, you can do it."

The struggle in Iceland is ongoing, but the nation's people have achieved monumental results in a relatively short amount of time due to the nature of their movement building. They managed to arrest and jail the bankers who wrecked the economy. When the government privatized public banking institutions to their friends, essentially for free, and made the people pay for their bailouts, the people threw them out of office and refused to give the banks their money. And since Iceland only recently achieved independence from Denmark in 1944, their boilerplate constitution had never been updated. The movement in Iceland successfully used direct democracy to crowdsource a new constitution via Facebook and Twitter, and that crowdsourced constitution was widely supported by the people as the official model for a new constitution.

While Iceland's politicians have since ignored the will of the people, a budding new political force in Iceland is building a movement in parliament to change that. We can learn from Iceland and accomplish similar goals here.

1.  Strive For Unity

Even though American and Icelandic cultures are different, the populism recently galvanized by Occupy can achieve the same goals that Iceland achieved if we organize around similar unifying principles. We have to first unite around class lines rather than fake ideological constructs. When we come across divisive issues like guns and abortion, we have to acknowledge that while we may have different opinions, we should instead find ways to agree on more unifying issues.

Example: Strive for unity and solidarity when coming across someone of different ideological leanings. If they say the government spends too much money, agree with them and then add that the U.S. spends way too much on maintaining an imperial military presence, and on an intrusive police and surveillance complex that only serves to violate our civil rights. If they bring up a divisive issue, tell them while you may have disagreeing opinions on that one issue, the other root causes of our problems should be addressed first and foremost. Remind them that it only serves those abusing their positions of power when the people are fighting one another instead of questioning their elected officials.

2.  Turn a Few Central Demands into Goals

To achieve unity, we need to center around just a few key goals. In Iceland, the Pirate Party's demands were fourfold: nationalize the banks, take back the government, establish free speech and access to the internet as human rights, and a write new constitution. The demands should be similar here – we should nationalize the Fed, declare a constitutional convention, declare this government illegitimate and elect new representatives, and allow free access to information for everyone. These must be part of a new political platform that can unite the political left and right against the corporate and financial interests that are holding our country hostage.

Example: Keep it basic. For starters, let's agree on a constitutional convention to address the most pressing issues, like corporate special interests and banks owning our government. Let's agree on an end to the police state that has proven it's more concerned with violating civil liberties than preventing terrorism. Let's agree on an end to private banks controlling our money supply and economic policy. And surely we can agree that the big banking institutions should be broken up and banksters jailed for defrauding millions of people out of their homes and savings. Let's start there.

3. Be the Banks

Even at the local level, we can take power back from Wall Street by taking over city councils and state legislatures. Any local or state government can issue public bank charters, like North Dakota has been doing since the early 20th century. With enough initial capital invested by the community, a public bank can store all tax revenues from the government and start to make loans on their initial deposit base. And unlike Wall Street, these banks won't charge obscene interest rates on an entrepreneur trying to get a small business loan, a student applying for a college loan, or a homeowner trying to get a mortgage. The bank's profits are returned to the people to be used on schools, healthcare and infrastructure updates.

Example: The community of Vashon Island, Washington, created a public bank that merged with the Puget Sound Cooperative Community Credit Union, and now 16% of the population has invested $20 million in the public bank. Bill Moyer, cofounder of the Vashon-based Backbone Campaign, who serves on the board of the new credit union, told me the community embraced it so much that they had even driven a JPMorgan Chase bank out of business several years ago, and those bank employees now work at the credit union. <

4. Be the Government

Birgitta Jonsdottir, Noam Chomsky, and David Cobb of Move to Amend all identify themselves as pragmatic anarchists. They perceive anarchy as nonviolently questioning the legitimacy of any authority or hierarchy, and empowering people through direct democracy. But unlike hardline anarchists, they see electoral politics as a tool for social change in movement building. In Iceland, Jonsdottir's movement fought for a central goal of online freedom through grassroots organizing, recognizing inherent value in art, music and creativity, and having a unifying platform for their foray into electoral politics. In the last election, Iceland's Pirate Party got 5% of the vote and gained 3 seats in the 63-seat Icelandic Parliament.

Example: Here, we're already starting to finally hear revolutionary talk in the U.S. Senate. Don't take my word for it – watch any of the videos of Senator Elizabeth Warren grilling the government's bank regulators in committee hearings for failing at their jobs. She's gotten dumbfounded reactions from SEC and Treasury Dept. officials when asking them how HSBC, Europe's largest bank, didn't face criminal charges for laundering money for the incredibly violent Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico. She got Ben Bernanke to say the big banks should be broken up. And she introduced a bill that would make student loan interest rates drop to the same preferential interest rate that the criminal banks get. She may even seek the presidency.

"I was one of the first people to start saying Elizabeth Warren should run for president," Rolling Stone investigative journalist Matt Taibbi told me at the 2013 Public Banking Institute conference. "I don't think she can be bought out."

Taibbi later talked about his experience with open and transparent government – Bernie Sanders inviting him to come spend a month with him, while he was still a Vermont congressman, to see all of the process for what it was. Sanders has since become one of the most populist members of the U.S. Senate, speaking regularly about the growing economic inequality in the U.S., and one of the most outspoken defenders of Social Security.

"I pitched the story to my editor, and he was like, 'Oh, Bernie Sanders? He's the one who cares, right?'" Taibbi said.

5. Crowdsource a New Constitution

Birgitta Jonsdottir said she believed in Thomas Jefferson's words that it was necessary for every next generation to rise up and revolt, as power is destined to corrupt those who have it. She says this revolutionary mindset also applies to the constitution, because the needs and goals of each new generation are different from the last as the world and its people constantly adapt to new events and face new challenges. Iceland did this by organizing communities at local gathering spots like pubs and cafes. Then they accepted submissions for constitutional revisions via social media, which she says is one of the reasons the internet must remain completely free. The Pirate Party is determined to force Parliament to allow the people's new constitution to become law.

Example: The Move to Amend coalition already has nearly 300,000 supporters of their We the People constitutional amendment. It would add language to the constitution that says only people have constitutional rights, not corporations, and that money does not equal political speech. They now have roughly 160 local affiliates and are planning to canvass neighborhoods in the summer and fall.

"We hope to have half a million signatures by the end of the year," MTA spokesman David Cobb said. "People are ready to get their whole communities fired up about this stuff.

The group is calling for a new constitutional convention. According to Article V of the U.S. Constitution, the people can convene to write a new constitution if two-thirds of the states have agreed to it. The group's attorneys have found that out of all the applications submitted, there are 42 to 45 states who have all filed legitimate applications. Only 38 states are necessary for an Article V convention to take place, so it should already be happening. Dan Marks of has officially submitted those applications to congressional parliamentarians for a new constitutional convention to be officially recognized by Congress.

If we begin the process of re-drafting a new constitution via social media like Iceland did, we could even have a new set of values for the next generations to live by if an Article V convention can be triggered. We could even submit amendments Reddit-style, where submissions are upvoted and downvoted by everyone participating online, and the best ones with the widest approval are submitted as a basis for a new Constitution. Amendments could even be crowdsourced via an official Twitter hashtag, like this.

We're on the precipice of a revolution here. Everybody is pissed. We all know what we want. We have examples all over the world of solutions to implement. All it takes is a little organizing. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+29 # MainStreetMentor 2013-06-05 10:31
The "steps" outlined in this article have a tremendous amount of merit, were they to be implemented. But I feel that unless our Congress actively and aggressively becomes involved in searching for ways to initiate and implement the "steps", and follows the bold lead of Senator Elizabeth Warren and HER suggestions on investigating and prosecuting the Wall Street financial institutions - these steps will, unfortunately, never be implemented.
+46 # tonenotvolume 2013-06-05 11:33
I completely and wholeheartedly disagree with you. That kind of defeatist thinking is not what the article states. It's not up to Congress or the other two branches to lead us out of this mess. It's up to us, whether we form a new party or demand a turnover of the presently elected, or boycott big banks, whatever. Sure Elizabeth might be our fingertip that pushes the change button but it's us that has to throw our weight into it.
+8 # 666 2013-06-06 08:07
quoting Gibson: "a constitutional convention to be officially recognized by Congress"
- reserve judgment on whether I'm a defeatist when I say: this congress ain't EVER gonna let this happen - much less bring it to a vote. If it does, I'll eat my words.

Remember state impeachment movements against W? ignored. OWS? ignored. constitution? ignored. Responsibility? ignored. the people? ignored.

- the reason is simple: if they do, the 1% will lose power. The whole point of having power is to have more power, not give it up! That's what social anarchism stands against.

I wholeheartedly agree with the ideas here. Yet realistically, Iceland is not the US. It's not a good comparison. A relatively small self-contained island, a population similar to a medium US city (& only 1 real "city") & a mostly homogenous culture does not compare with the world's 3rd more populous country of vastly different cultures & it's clientele of world banks, states, & corporations.

We do need to start local, just like the christian right & gop did in the 60s. We need concerted efforts to raise a new generation. We need to join together for non-violent, true democratic change.

We need a new govt -- but we also need to be careful about a constitutional convention. Call it too early with too many disagreements on the table, & you'll see a corporate-total itarian constitutional state emerge. Until then, amendments are a much safer route to change.
+2 # heraldmage 2013-06-08 15:14
" ... this congress ain't EVER gonna let this happen - much less bring it to a vote..."
The Congressional recognition of legitimate applications (petitions) from 42 States does not require their consent The States are not asking Congress's permission if enough States agree it is their right to convene the convention. The Congress is just indicating that the State have met the Constitutional requirements to convene a Constitutional convention.
I image the Congressional Parliamentarian 's office will be required to validate each States petitions & assure that at least 38 States made it through the vetting process before Congress recognizes their petitions & convenes the convention.
The 2014 election give us the opportunity to elect an entirely new House & 1/3 of the Senate. That 1/3 of the Senate if they are all independent could become a majority coalition for 1/3 of incumbents who want to keep their job in 2016.
It will probably take 1 1/2 -2 yrs to vet 42 State petitions.
We could also start working on a Peoples Constitution via the internet to have a proposal to work from.
Once people start working on it and voting online the momentum will build.
It can be done but not if you take the defeatist attitude right from the beginning. I can't, I can't never works
+21 # Billsy 2013-06-05 12:07
unless our Congress actively and aggressively becomes involved in searching for ways to initiate and implement the "steps", and follows the bold lead of Senator Elizabeth Warren and HER suggestions on investigating and prosecuting the Wall Street financial institutions - We, the people, pledge to vote them out of office.
+20 # wantrealdemocracy 2013-06-05 12:23
MainStreetMento r is absolutely correct in saying the corrupt bums in Congress now will not allow the changes recommended in this article which just gives us more reasons to get rid of them. Don't vote for their re election. The Pirate Party is gong international. We need the Pirate Party in the U.S. of A. Hopefully the Pirate Party will be armed with great big brooms to sweep out the crud in our government now.
+3 # crispy 2013-06-05 23:05
The NPA may be the party we need . I just discovered it on Antemedius.
This is a link to an article NPA has an ad on the right: click on it to know more.
Iceland had proportional representation so the pirate party got representatives with only 5% of the votes.
Here (US) 5% gets you NOBODY in Washington so we should have that in the new Constitution for sure.
+5 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-06-05 18:43
Always takes a great leader, spokesperson to get the movement going.
+5 # RLF 2013-06-07 05:51
There are two basic differences between Iceland and the US...1) Iceland has 250,000 people 2) They are educated.
+9 # lloydapianoman 2013-06-05 10:57
+6 # thekidde 2013-06-05 11:28
+35 # Buddha 2013-06-05 11:26
Great idea, but we in America have one side that takes pride in being anti-intellectu al and anti-science, that doesn't believe in evolution and believes that 98% of of climate scientists holding that man-made climate change is accepted fact is proof of them all being involved in a global consipiracy of fraud. These people do actually believe that "Corporations are people, friend", they do believe that the path to economic prosperity is de-regulating Wall St. and our major polluting industries, they actually do believe that lower taxes for millionaire and billionaires will somehow "trickle-down" into job creation and wage growth for everyone else.

It is pretty difficult to "find common ground" with "earth-is-flat" alternate universe believers.
+4 # crispy 2013-06-05 23:12
Well true BUT most of them want to downsize the government (we just have to show them that it mean cutting the pentagon budget in half not schools and food stamps).
They want to downsize the empire too and leave less debt to our children. They want smaller governt (lets teach them it means women's free choice and drug legalization).
They want more opportunities (again let's teach them what is in OUR best interest not the interest of large corporations)
They want corporations to pay there fair share (there is a 1-page bill that can do this and we have to show it to them)
Corporations used to pay 25% of all taxes under Eisenhower (28%??) now what is it? 12%?
THEY (the lunies who bought the Koch's propaganda) can see some common "values" with us if we can focus them on issues - not political affiliations
+2 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-06-09 23:32
What the Conservatives want is similar to how they would "invent," love to play a football game. First, "their" team the "Conserves" would have 16 players, the "Society" team would get only 9 players. They would by their rules, get rid of umpires, field judges, instant play reviews, and they would run the score board.
+41 # PABLO DIABLO 2013-06-05 11:29
Elizabeth Warren for President 2016. Take back our government. Vote the leeches out, repeal Citizens United, boycott the corporations that are killing us, cut the military machine down to size. Wake up America.
+11 # vt143 2013-06-05 11:56
If she gets too pointed, they'll kill her.
+3 # crispy 2013-06-05 23:13
SADLY U may be right..
Kennedy Lincoln (both tried to print US government money...)
+15 # mppeace 2013-06-05 11:58
"All it takes is a little organizing"?! That's the multi-Trillion $ crux of the matter, isn't it? Fact is, the Wal Street-Pentagon ruling elite has hundreds of trillions invested in their Dictatorship of the Profitariat(and are using a lot of that loot(99% of which are taken from the 99%!)to completely buy out the media and CONgress, thus ensuring mass alienation from the whole political process. Which suits the 1% perfectly well, since the fewer the participants, the easier it is to buy/coerce/repr ess the few activists. We need a cultural revolution for the world's 7 billion to fully embrace a more equitable, sustainable and collaborative alternative(s) to the current Collapse of the Clunkered Capitalist Catastrophe. Peace & Aloha.
+1 # crispy 2013-06-05 23:15
Right on Man!!
+21 # Inspired Citizen 2013-06-05 12:18
"For starters, let's agree on a constitutional convention to address the most pressing issues, like corporate special interests and banks owning our government."

There is an amendment movement well established, well organized and gaining ground every day.

Join the effort to Move to Amend by signing their petition. That is not the only step that needs to be taken, but it is an essential step in the popularization of the government.
+8 # Roger Kotila 2013-06-05 13:53
I too was at the Public Banking Institute's conference. Very powerful ideas to take back democratic control at the local, state, and national levels. Money is, of course, a key issue. Thank you, Ellen Brown and colleagues for an outstanding effort. The only thing missing for me was a rational analysis of what to do about the international system -- a global war system of 190 or so national sovereign's where might makes "right." A lawless global system that permits the .1% to move money from one (sovereign) nation to another, and allows multinational corporations the same advantage. None of the PBI speakers addressed what we are going to do to end global anarchy. PBI activists seem to think that, somehow, the geopolitical situation will by magic, take care of itself: Establish local banks, admire Iceland's success, and aim to fix the US by more direct democracy. But is that a deep enough analysis of what is needed?

Advanced progressives know that we will need a democratic federal world union if the whole world is to have a chance to succeed. Otherwise, with or without Big Banksters, we will again see wars, competition for resources, territorial disputes, etc. etc.

The next Conference needs to go global like they are doing in the Earth Federation Movement with its Earth Constitution. Act locally, act globally. That is how we can end the economic and military stranglehold on the world.
+8 # Kathymoi 2013-06-05 14:45
Good for Elizabeth Warren if she is willing to run for president, but I am looking for a good sized group of people on board to do the work of the executive branch. The cabinet members and advisors, chiefs of staff, all need to be on the same page with us. There is a good sized group, including Bernie Sanders, Naom Chomsky, Bill McGibbon, the founders of the progressive green banks in northern California, Bill Moyers, Barbara Boxer of California maybe, and others, including some journalists who have been loyal to truth and to humans. One person for president is not enough by a long shot.
+11 # diacad 2013-06-05 15:15
I don't want to rain on the parade, but there is a bit of logrolling going on here by Carl Gibson (and presumably Jonsdottir). The "Pirate Party" is one of the smallest in Iceland (below 2%), yet the article is written as if they have a major influence on progressive developments there, and implies that the rest of Icelandic politics may be corrupt or anemic. The banks that failed were private institutions, and the government took strong measures against them according to law, not just due to influence from petty bourgeois anarchists and radical hobbyists such as may be found in the "Pirate Party".

That being said, Iceland is, like the other larger Scandinavian nations, quite advanced politically. None of them are satisfied that they are anywhere near utopia, and their struggles are lively and interesting. Visiting Sweden in 2010, we found that private contributions to political parties are forbidden - funds are distributed to all parties (above 1%) proportional to the vote in the previous election. This is done on a local basis. I believe Iceland follows a similar policy.

These countries have parliamentary systems with proportional representation. This enables even small parties (like the Pirates) to have some input, denied by a "winner-take-al l" system.

Why are the Nordics so sensible? In modern times, strong labor movements are a basis. Iceland had the world's first democracy. And with such small populations, every voice is valued.
+7 # Firefox11 2013-06-05 19:15
The U.S. used to have strong labor movements and during the 1930's they were able to exert powerful influence against the corporatists bid for power; hence, bankers went to jail and Glass Steagel and other laws were created to balance individual rights with those of big business.
+4 # crispy 2013-06-05 23:24
Bankers went to jail even under REAGAN!
Over 100 got jail sentences in the Savings and Loan crisis (Jeb Bush escaped of course and many got out early - 1 is teaching at UC Berkeley).
These were the days were SOME accountability existed but obviously Obama is to the right of Reagan when it comes to JUSTICE.
Except I guess for about 750000 jailed in 2010 just for possession of Marijuana (most of them black of course).
This comes from just published FBI stats.
VIVA el presidente who acknowledges smoking when he was younger but see no problem wasting Gov money jailing people who committed no crimes and harmed nobody.
+13 # amye 2013-06-05 15:39
Here's a very simple way to address corporate fascism....crea te a constitutional amendment stating "separation between corporations and government." Yes, just like "separation between church and state."
+6 # Firefox11 2013-06-05 19:13
Great idea; an amendment to call attention to the fact that corporations are currently not separate from government; but must be mandated as such.
+8 # crispy 2013-06-05 23:28
separating them financially would accomplish that for 90% but we also need to limit the number of lobbyist to 60-100 with 90% of them representing people and only 10% for corporations, unions, churches.
Currently we have thousands of official lobbyists and thousands more who are not declared lobbyist since the law allows it as long as "lobbying is not their MAIN activity" Who will check their day-timer to see the % of time they spend on lobbying?
+6 # 666 2013-06-06 08:10
how about NO lobbyists? No campaign contributions? No private trips and lunches etc.
+6 # bingers 2013-06-07 05:57
Quoting 666:
how about NO lobbyists? No campaign contributions? No private trips and lunches etc.

The founders of the country made it illegal for corporations to exert influence on politicians, which led to polituicians to meet the corporate representatives in hotel lobbies to get their bribes. That is where the term lobbying comes from, and make no mistake, it's still bribery.

If a politician takes campaign money from a corporation and then votes favorably on any issue directly related to the good of that company they should be hauled off the floor and deposited directly in jail without trial for a period of not less than 20 years at hard labor.

Voila, an honest government, just like that!
0 # tigerlille 2013-07-19 20:29
Brilliant, really.
+15 # barkingcarpet 2013-06-05 16:21
We have a basic choice folks. Change our world away from policy based on consumerism, consumption and profit, or continue on into toxified environmental destruction and collapse ever acceleratingly into oblivion.

Are we really going to sit back with the remote and allow infantile psychopaths dictate our future? If so, shame on all of us.
+9 # Rick Levy 2013-06-05 19:01
The only way that the American people will rise up is to get a snack during a TV commercial.
+8 # Anarchist 23 2013-06-05 19:58
When faced with really right wing republicans who are against big government I usually take the track 'the government should function like a barn-raising; when there is a task too big for the individual, the government which represents the rest of us, should pitch in to help get it done.' It is a surprisingly successful argument to use!
+6 # Even 2013-06-06 07:04
Iceland: 300,000 people, no armed forces.

US: 300,000,000 people, 800 military bases around the world and a huge imperial army.
+2 # James Marcus 2013-06-08 14:06
Yay Lots of great insights, awareness and suggestions

....Obama and The Gang will not simply 'roll over'.
Doing so, not only means great change for them, but, likely, Real trials, and life imprisonment. Expect a fight.
0 # tigerlille 2013-07-19 20:28
Wow. Inspiring. Problem is, Iceland is a nation with a concentration of older souls, that is, people who have more experience spinning the wheel of life. The US still has a lot of very young souls, you know, the kind of people who wage war on women and hate all Muslims. Change is very alarming for them.
0 # GrandV 2013-07-24 16:00
I am surprised at the nay sayers, here. Of course, Congress won't "let" a revolution take place. Expect their resistance, and keep on fighting for the changes needed.

Congress did not "let" the civil rights movement affect change. Congress did not just "let" women have the right to vote.

Those are two issues that people said "would never happen", right up there with gay marriage and legalized marijuana, in any form.

Revolutions both circumvent and, if need be, confront the status quo. Don't expect his to be easy, but it should be easier than getting your brains bashed in for the right to vote.
0 # danmarks 2013-08-24 14:55
A quick update:
The House Judiciary Committee will be reviewing this soon.

Original letter

The reply:

I instructed the Clerk of House in a letter that arrived last week that I will forward the request to the House Judiciary Committee as they suggested:

"Since the letter you sent to me also reveals that Congress never counted any of the applications that date back to 1789 and as recent as 2013, it is possible that the answer may reveal an ongoing obstruction of a peremptory constitutional process. Because of this I would ask you to officially notify the President and Vice President of the United States, as chief enforcement officers of the Constitution. I believe their awareness of this situation is required."
Our response to the reply:

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